Enumerative combinatorics, graph theory, order theory, posets, matroids, designs and other discrete structures. It also includes algebraic, analytic and probabilistic combinatorics.

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What do the stable homotopy groups of spheres say about the combinatorics of finite sets?

The Barratt-Priddy-Quillen(-Segal) theorem says that the following spaces are homotopy equivalent in an (essentially) canonical way: $\Omega^\infty S^\infty:=\varinjlim~ \Omega^nS^n$ ...
55
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17answers
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Google question: In a country in which people only want boys [closed]

Hi all! Google published recently questions that are asked to candidates on interviews. One of them caused very very hot debates in our company and we're unsure where the truth is. The question is: ...
55
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5answers
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Does every polyomino tile R^n for some n?

This is a question posed by Adam Chalcraft. I am posting it here because I think it deserves wider circulation, and because maybe someone already knows the answer. A polyomino is usually defined to ...
53
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6answers
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Existence of a zero-sum subset

Some time ago I heard this question and tried playing around with it. I've never succeeded to making actual progress. Here it goes: Given a finite (nonempty) set of real numbers, $S=\{a_1,a_2,\dots, ...
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1answer
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What is the amplituhedron?

The paper ”Scattering Amplitudes and the Positive Grassmannian” by Nima Arkani-Hamed, Jacob L. Bourjaily, Freddy Cachazo, Alexander B. Goncharov, Alexander Postnikov, and Jaroslav Trnka, introduces ...
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3answers
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Flipping coins on a budget

A coin is flipped $n$ times and you win if it comes up heads at least $k$ times. The coin is unusual in that you're allowed to pick the probability $p_i$ that it comes up heads on the $i$th flip, ...
47
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8answers
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The “sensitivity” of 2-colorings of the d-dimensional integer lattice

Consider the $d$-dimensional integer lattice, $Z^d$. Call two points in $Z^d$ "neighbors" if their Euclidean distance is 1 (i.e., if they differ by 1 on exactly one coordinate). Let $C$ be a ...
46
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9answers
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Does War have infinite expected length?

My question concerns the (completely deterministic) card game known as War, played by seven-year-olds everywhere, such as my son Horatio, and sometimes also by others, such as their fathers. The ...
45
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8answers
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Puzzle on deleting k bits from binary vectors of length 3k

Consider all $2^n$ different binary vectors of length $n$ and assume $n$ is an integer multiple of $3$. You are allowed to delete exactly $n/3$ bits from each of the binary vectors, leaving vectors ...
45
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7answers
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Euler-Maclaurin formula and Riemann-Roch

Let $Df$ denote the derivative of a function $f(x)$ and $\bigtriangledown f=f(x)-f(x-1)$ be the discrete derivative. Using the Taylor series expansion for $f(x-1)$, we easily get $\bigtriangledown = ...
45
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2answers
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vector balancing problem

I believe the solution posted to the arXiv on June 17 by Marcus, Spielman, and Srivastava is correct. This problem may be hard, so I don't expect an off-the-cuff solution. But can anyone suggest ...
45
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1answer
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A = B (but not quite); 3-d arrays with multiple recurrences

Many years ago, I discovered the remarkable array (apparently originally discovered by Ramanujan) 1 1 3 2 10 15 6 40 105 105 24 196 700 1260 945 ...
42
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8answers
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What are some examples of interesting uses of the theory of combinatorial species?

This is a question I've asked myself a couple of times before, but its appearance on MO is somewhat motivated by this thread, and sigfpe's comment to Pete Clark's answer. I've often heard it claimed ...
41
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7answers
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What is Lagrange Inversion good for?

I am planning an introductory combinatorics course (mixed grad-undergrad) and am trying to decide whether it is worth budgeting a day for Lagrange inversion. The reason I hesitate is that I know of ...
40
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5answers
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Identifying poisoned wines

The standard version of this puzzle is as follows: you have $1000$ bottles of wine, one of which is poisoned. You also have a supply of rats (say). You want to determine which bottle is the poisoned ...
40
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2answers
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Combinatorial interpretation of ${i\choose n}$, where $i^2=-1$

At MIT all departments have numbers, and math is 18. Last year MIT math majors produced a tee shirt that said ${i\choose 18}$ ("I choose 18") on the front, and on the back $$ ...
39
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3answers
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cube + cube + cube = cube

The following identity is a bit isolated in the arithmetics of natural integers $$3^3+4^3+5^3=6^3.$$ Let $K_6$ be a cube whose side has length $6$. We view it as the union of $216$ elementary unit ...
39
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6answers
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Why do Bernoulli numbers arise everywhere?

I have seen Bernoulli numbers many times, and sometimes very surprisingly. They appear in my textbook on complex analysis, in algebraic topology, and of course, number theory. Things like the criteria ...
38
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8answers
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1 rectangle <= 4 squares

Almost 25 years ago a professor at Indiana U showed me the following problem: given a map $\mathbb{Z}^2\rightarrow\mathbb{R}$ such that the sum inside every square (parallel to the axes) is $\leq1$ ...
38
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2answers
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Collapsible group words

What is the length $f(n)$ of the shortest nontrivial group word $w_n$ in $x_1,\ldots,x_n$ that collapses to $1$ when we substitute $x_i=1$ for any $i$? For example, $f(2)=4$, with the commutator ...
37
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7answers
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Conway's game of life for random initial position

What is the behavior of Conway's game of life when the initial position is random? -- We can ask this question on an infinite grid or on an $n$ by $n$ table (planar or on a torus). Specifically ...
37
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2answers
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Walsh Fourier Transform of the Möbius function

This question is related to this previous question where I asked about ordinary Fourier coefficients. Special case: is Möbius nearly Orthogonal to Morse ! Harold Calvin Marston Morse (24 March ...
37
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2answers
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Numbers that are generic w.r.t. exponentiation

This is a follow-up to my old question Number of distinct values taken by $x\hat{\phantom{\hat{}}}x\hat{\phantom{\hat{}}}\dots\hat{\phantom{\hat{}}}x$ with parentheses inserted in all possible ways. ...
37
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1answer
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Why are there 1024 Hamiltonian cycles on an icosahedron?

Fix one edge $e$ of the graph (1-skeleton) of an icosahedron. By a computer search, I found that there are 1024 Hamiltonian cycles that include $e$. [But see edit below re directed vs. undirected!] ...
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Do there exist chess positions that require exponentially many moves to reach?

By "chess" here I mean chess played on an $n\times n$ board with an unbounded number of (non-king) pieces. Some care is needed if you want to generalize some of the subtler rules of chess to an ...
36
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6answers
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Non-enumerative proof that there are many derangements?

Recall that a derangement is a permutation $\pi: \{1,\ldots,n\} \to \{1,\ldots,n\}$ with no fixed points: $\pi(j) \neq j$ for all $j$. A classical application of the inclusion-exclusion principle ...
35
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6answers
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Placing numbers $1,2,\ldots,n^3$ in a cube so that numbers of any two adjacent unit subcube are coprime

This is a question first I asked in SE but since there was no suggestion or solution, I decide to put it here. Consider an $n\times n \times n$ Cube containing $n^3$ unit cubes. Is it possible to ...
35
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4answers
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Connectivity of the Erdős–Rényi random graph

It is well-known that if $\omega=\omega(n)$ is any function such that $\omega \to \infty$ as $n \to \infty$, and if $p \ge (\log{n}+\omega) / n$ then the Erdős–Rényi random graph $G(n,p)$ is ...
35
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2answers
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Is there an analog of Sperner's lemma for the Hopf invariant?

Recall that Sperner's lemma is essentially a combinatorial version of the topological statement "A map from $S^n$ to $S^n$ with degree one cannot be nullhomotopic." My question is, does there exist ...
34
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12answers
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Combinatorial results without known combinatorial proofs

Stanley likes to keep a list of combinatorial results for which there is no known combinatorial proof. For example, until recently I believe the explicit enumeration of the de Brujin sequences fell ...
34
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4answers
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A family of words counted by the Catalan numbers

In recent work with Michael Albert and Nik Ruškuc, a family of words has arisen which is counted by the Catalan numbers. I've looked at Richard Stanley's Catalan exercises in EC2 and his Catalan ...
34
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1answer
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Do runs of every length occur in this sequence?

This is a repost from user r.e.s's unsolved Math Stack Exchange question: Do runs of every length occur in this string? That question was derived from my original question on the subject: Does this ...
34
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1answer
864 views

Implications of non-negativity of coefficients of arbitrary Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials?

In their seminal 1979 paper here, Kazhdan and Lusztig studied an arbitrary Coxeter group $(W,S)$ and the corresponding Iwahori-Hecke algebra. In particular they showed how to pass from a standard ...
33
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33answers
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Structures that turn out to exhibit a symmetry even though their definition doesn't

Sometimes (often?) a structure depending on several parameters turns out to be symmetric w.r.t. interchanging two of the parameters, even though the definition gives a priori no clue of that symmetry. ...
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the following inequality is true,but I can't prove it

The inequality is \begin{equation*} \sum_{k=1}^{2d}\left(1-\frac{1}{2d+2-k}\right)\frac{d^k}{k!}>e^d\left(1-\frac{1}{d}\right) \end{equation*} for all integer $d\geq 1$. I use computer to verify ...
33
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15answers
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Strong induction without a base case

Strong induction proves a sequence of statements $P(0)$, $P(1)$, $\ldots$ by proving the implication "If $P(m)$ is true for all nonnegative integers $m$ less than $n$, then $P(n)$ is true." for ...
33
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9answers
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What proportion of chess positions that one can set up on the board, using a legal collection of pieces, can actually arise in a legal chess game?

Many chess positions that one may easily set up on a chess board are impossible to achieve in a game of legal moves. For example, among the impossible situations would be: A position in which both ...
33
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1answer
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Wanted: a “Coq for the working mathematician”

Sorry for a possibly off-topic question -- there are four StackExchange subs each of which could be construed as the proper place for this question, and I've just picked the one I'm most familiar ...
32
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5answers
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Icon Arrangement on Desktop

Story I was bored sitting in front of my computer and using a rectangle to select icons on my screen. I could select $1$, $2$, $3$, $4$, but not $5$ icons. (Black squares are the icons. Note that ...
32
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7answers
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The shortest path in first passage percolation

Consider a square planar grid. (The vertices are pair of points in the plane with integer coordinates and two vertices are adjacent if they agree in one coordinate and differ by one in the other.) ...
31
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8answers
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Help with a double sum, please

Here is a double series I have been having trouble evaluating: $$S=\sum_{k=0}^{m}\sum_{j=0}^{k+m-1}(-1)^{k}{m \choose ...
31
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5answers
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Why do wedges of spheres often appear in combinatorics?

Robin Forman writes in "A User's Guide to Discrete Morse Theory": The reader should not get the impression that the homotopy type of a CW complex is determined by the number of cells of each ...
31
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2answers
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A question on maps from $\mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z}$ to itself

Let $p\geq 3$ be a prime number, and let $u:\mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z}\to \mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z}$ be a map such that, for all $l\in \mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z}$,$l\neq 0$, the map $k\mapsto u(k+l)-u(k)$ is a ...
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Integer-valued factorial ratios

This historical question recalls Pafnuty Chebyshev's estimates for the prime distribution function. In his derivation Chebyshev used the factorial ratio sequence $$ ...
31
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1answer
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orders of products of permutations

Let $p$ be a prime, $n\gg p$ not divisible by $p$ (say, $n>2^{2^p}$). Are there two permutations $a, b$ of the set $\{1,...,n\}$ which together act transitively on $\{1,2,...,n\}$ and such that all ...
31
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0answers
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Intersecting Family of Triangulations

Let $\cal T_n$ be the family of all triangulations on an $n$-gon using $(n-3)$ non-intersecting diagonals. The number of triangulations in $\cal T_n$ is $C_{n-2}$ the $(n-2)$th Catalan number. Let ...
30
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4answers
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Verifying the correctness of a Sudoku solution

A Sudoku is solved correctly, if all columns, all rows and all 9 subsquares are filled with the numbers 1 to 9 without repetition. Hence, in order to verify if a (correct) solution is correct, one has ...
30
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1answer
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Are the norms of graphs dense in any interval?

It is known that there is a gap between 2 and the next largest norm of a graph. Is there an interval of the real line in which norms of graphs are dense?
30
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4answers
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Tiling A Rectangle With A Hint of Magic

Here's a a famous problem: If a rectangle $R$ is tiled by rectangles $T_i$ each of which has at least one integer sidelength, then the tiled rectangle $R$ has at least one integer side length. ...
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Can we color Z^+ with n colors such that a, 2a, …, na all have different colors for all a?

For example for n=2 coloring odd numbers red, numbers of the form 4k+2 blue and so on works. This problem was posed in the KoMaL for n+1 prime, if I know well by Geza Kos. I verified it for all ...